Not A Smoker? You Could Still Develop Oral Cancer

5 May 2017
 Categories: Dentist, Blog

About 85% of oral cancer cases occur in smokers and users of chewing tobacco. At first glance, this may suggest that if you're not a tobacco user, you don't really have much to worry about. But the other side of this statistic to consider is that 15% of oral cancer victims don't smoke or chew tobacco. No matter who you are, there is a possibility that you could develop oral cancer, so it's important that you know the facts about this condition.

Other Risk Factors

There are many possible risk factors for oral cancer. However, some of the most significant risk factors include alcohol use, prolonged sun exposure, family history, and HPV exposure. Limiting your alcohol intake and wearing sunscreen when you venture outside will lower your risk somewhat. You can also protect yourself against HPV by limiting your number of sexual partners and getting vaccinated against the disease. Sadly, there's nothing you can do about your family history. However, if your relatives have been diagnosed with oral cancer, you need to be especially on the lookout for signs in your own mouth.

Signs of Oral Cancer

The most obvious sign of oral cancer is the appearance of spots on your cheek or gum tissue. These spots may be flat or raised, white or red, round or irregular. So, any type of spot should be looked over by your dentist or doctor. However, keep in mind that you may not see a spot when you begin developing oral cancer. It might be in a less-visible part of your mouth, or the cancer could be affecting deeper tissues. Other signs that can indicate oral cancer include numbness in some areas, lack of sensitivity to taste, odd pains and aches in your mouth, and unexplained bleeding. Sometimes, patients develop sores that refuse to heal.

Getting Checked For Oral Cancer

No matter who you are, it's important to see your dentist every 6 months for a checkup. One of the things your dentist and dental hygienist does during the checkup is look over your mouth for signs of cancer. If they notice any questionable lesions or spots, they might send you to a cancer specialist who can take a tissue sample and determine whether or not the spots are cancerous. Keep in mind that many spots are benign; just because you have an odd spot in your mouth does not automatically mean you have cancer, but it's important to get checked to be sure.

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